Nutrition Column – ‘go Red’ and Take Charge of Your Health

When we think of heart disease, we often think of men, but heart disease also is the No. 1 killer of women. In fact, one in every 2.5 women will die of heart disease or stroke. In comparison, one in 30 will die from breast cancer.

February is American Heart Month and a good time to evaluate eating and lifestyle patterns that may affect your heart health. "Go Red for Women" is a nationwide campaign designed to encourage heart health among women. Here are 10 ways to "Go Red" and take charge of your health:

1. Make a date (and keep it). Each year on your birthday, schedule a checkup. Have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked, and ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to follow your health-care professional’s recommendations, including taking prescribed medications.

2. Tune in as you tone up. Add more physical activity to your life by stepping, marching or jogging in place for at least 15 minutes a day while watching your favorite TV shows. Increase your activity by five minutes each week until you’re getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.  

3. Grab some H2O when you go. Take a water bottle along with you – it’ll keep you hydrated and the bottle’s weight will strengthen your arms.

4. Keep out of sight, out of mouth. Keep packages of unhealthy food hidden in the pantry. Put raw veggies and fruits in plain sight in the refrigerator and keep healthy snacks in the front of the pantry so that’s what you see when you open the door.

5. Eat right to control cholesterol. Eating foods high in saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol. To help keep your cholesterol levels down, eat foods low in saturated fat, such as lean chicken or turkey (roasted or baked, with skin removed), fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains.

6. Shake the salt habit. To help lower high blood pressure, watch your salt intake. It may be disguised in food labels as sodium alginate, sodium sulfite, sodium caseinate, disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sodium citrate.

7. Kick butts. If you smoke, quit. Try this four-step way to snuff your habit. On Day 1, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke by half. On Day 3, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke in half again. On Day 5, cut your smoking in half again. On your Quit Day, quit!

8. Be a good loser. Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. To achieve steady, painless weight loss, take it easy. Each day, if you eat 200 to 300 calories less than you would normally consume and exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week, you’ll get closer to your goal and be able to achieve weight loss that’s steady and painless.

9. Don’t let a slip keep you down. If you get off your exercise schedule, have a cigarette or mess up on a meal, immediately get back on track toward reestablishing a healthy lifestyle.

10. Say, "Yea for me!" To maintain momentum with exercising, losing weight or quitting smoking, keep track of your achievements and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.

For more information about the "Go Red for Women" campaign, visit the AHA Web site at or call 1-800-242-8721.

– 30 –

by Pat Kendall, Ph.D., R.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension